Tonight’s coverage began with the remainder of Day 5. The pre-show focus was on how many top pros and champions were still alive, and the featured table was loaded, with Jeff Shulman and Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier already sitting there, and Joseph Hachem moving over to join them. Antonio Esfandiari and actor Lou Diamond Phillips remained at table two.
In the first hand shown, Randy Propson raised to 37,000 with , and Elky made the call in the big blind with A-8 offsuit. Both players checked a flop of 10-2-6, and when a king fell on the turn, Elky checked again and Propson bet 42,000. Grospellier called, and when Propson bet 75,000 after the river deuce, Elky once again made a very sketchy call. It was not to be the last strange play that we saw in tonight’s show.
Jeff Shulman , who continued to play a tighter game than most of the rest of the table, had players twice wind up all-in against him pre-flop with K-Q, both times against Shulman’s A-K. He busted both players. The second time it happened, Joe Hachem commented on how loose the play at the table had been.
Estelle Denis, one of the last three women in the tournament, took a brutal beat in a completely unique way. She went all-in over the top of a bet by JC Tran, only to have the dealer mistakenly muck her hand as she put her chips in the middle. After the tournament directors were called over, they determined that her hand was dead. To add insult to injury, she had to forfeit the number of chips necessary to call Tran’s bet. She revealed that she had pocket aces, and although she handled the situation with great class, she never really recovered, and went out in 208th place, leaving just two women in the field.
The final hand of the first hour saw Shulman shift gears in a blind vs. blind battle with Elky. Shulman raised to 35,000 in the small blind with , and Elky called with . When the flop of J-J-10, with two hearts, came down, Shulman made a continuation bet of 25,000, and Grospellier called. A king fell on the turn, and Shulman once again bet 25,000, and again Elky called, looking to take it away on the river. However, Shulman bet out a third time on the river 8, this time 30,000, and Elky finally folded the best hand, whereupon Shulman showed the bluff.
The second hour of the telecast featured play from Day 6, which began with 185 players left. Tom Schneider and Prahlad Friedman were at the featured table, and both remaining women, Nichoel Peppe and Leo Margets, were at table two.
We had our first sightings of a few of the November Nine during this hour. First, we saw James Akenhead and Steven Begleiter go at it in a huge pot of 2.8 million chips. ESPN picked up the hand after a flop of 9-8-Q, with two clubs. Akenhead had raised pre-flop, but Begleiter became the aggressor after the flop. After a turn of the , Akenhead checked and Begleiter bet 850,000, which Akenhead called. When the came on the river, both players checked, and Akenhead was disgusted to see that Begleiter had hit two pair on the river with 9-7 offsuit! Later, we saw Darvin Moon for the first time, taking down a pot with a big post-flop bet, and we also saw Begleiter go up against Phil Ivey, with Ivey winning a nice-sized pot with pocket aces against Begleiter’s pair of nines.
Nichoel Peppe showed considerable skill during the hour, but unfortunately, she had nothing to show for it but a decimated chip stack. First, she held A-K against her opponent’s K-Q, bet out after a flop with a king, and then check-raised the turn when a blank fell. Her opponent made the call, and then hit the miracle queen on the river. Peppe managed to check and avoid losing any more of her stack, calling out that her opponent’s K-Q was good even before he showed it. Later, she called a post-flop all-in with just a pair of fours, accurately reading that her opponent had just a big ace. He did, but he hit a queen on the river to make a higher pair, once again spoiling Peppe’s excellent play.
Prahlad Friedman was on the ropes for his tournament life for much of the hour. In one hand, he raised to 40,000 with , which Mikka Puumalainen called with pocket jacks. The flop brought 6-8-K, with two hearts. Friedman bet 80,000 into the 120,000 pot, which Puumalainen called. The Finn then hit the jackpot when he turned the third jack, and he cleverly checked behind Friedman’s check. The river brought the , putting three diamonds on the board and giving Friedman two pair. He now led out 200,000, and Puumalainen now sprung the trap with an all-in raise, which would have put Friedman all-in. After some agonizing, Prahlad made the good laydown, and lived to survive. He then stayed in the tourney when he raised to 40,000 with pocket eights, and then pushed after Jesse Haabak made an odd re-raise to 125,000 with just A-6 offsuit. Haabak was priced in, and when the board blanked, Friedman once again stayed alive.
One of the more interesting hands of the night began with Tom Schneider raising to 45,000 with pocket nines. Paul Johnson called with , as did Puumalainen with a pair of eights. Duane Stacy then tried to take the pot down from the big blind with a three-player squeeze play re-raise to 130,000 with just !!!! However, Schneider had other ideas, and he re-popped it to 300,000, causing all the other players to fold.
The final hand of the night once again featured some strong play from Schneider. In early position, Paul Johnson raised to 40,000 with A-J offsuit, and Schneider merely called in the big blind with . When the flop fell 5-A-9, Schneider baited the trap by checking, and Johnson obliged with a bet of 75,000. Schneider then raised to 275,000, and Johnson, still not understanding the trouble he was in, pushed all-in. Schneider called, and took down the 2.6 million-chip pot when no jack came on the turn or river.
One final note: I found it very interesting that ESPN allowed Full Tilt Poker commercials promoting the fact that Phil Ivey is one of the November Nine to air during the telecast. Although I’m certain that all serious poker players already know that Ivey will be at the final table, it seemed strange to allow casual viewers to get that information and take the suspense out of any of Ivey’s future struggles to get there.
Be that as it may, see you next week, as we get closer to the final table!
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